Search Continues For Mistakenly Released ABQ Inmate, Lawsuit Advances In Raid On NM Youth Program

Jun 11, 2018

Search Continues For Mistakenly Released Albuquerque InmateThe Associated Press

Authorities continue to search for an Albuquerque jail inmate who was mistakenly released early.

Metropolitan Detention Center officials say 27-year-old Duwin Perez-Cordova was released Sunday and was last seen in downtown Albuquerque where he was dropped off.

Jail officials say they're investigating how the mistake happened, but it appears Perez-Cordova was aided by his cellmate who may have switched identification wristbands with him.

Perez-Cordova had been held at the jail since December on charges of attempting to commit a felony, shooting at or from a car, aggravated battery, car theft, drug trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering.

Perez-Cordova was also being held on a federal warrant.

Authorities say Perez-Cordova is considered violent and shouldn't be approached by the public.

Lawsuit Advances In Raid On New Mexico Youth ProgramThe Associated Press

A federal judge says a lawsuit can move forward that was filed by owners of a ranch program for troubled youths in southern New Mexico against a State Police agent, in connection with a 2013 raid on suspicion of neglect and abuse.

Tierra Blanca Ranch owner Scott Chandler said Monday that his lawsuit has cleared a crucial challenge with the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo.

Chandler, wife Colette Chandler and a former participant in the youth program at Tierra Blanca allege that state police and social services staff violated their protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Chandlers say personnel led by agent Felipe Gonzales interviewed youths without a warrant or consent, and that their reputation and business suffered.

Armijo dismissed accusations of malicious prosecution.

Remains Of WWII Gunner To be returned To New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The remains of a young gunner from New Mexico who was killed during World War II will soon be brought home to be reburied at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently notified the family of Sgt. Alfonso Duran that his remains had been identified.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Duran disappeared over Europe in 1944. He was part of a crew manning a B-24H Liberator that was en route to a bombing run in Germany when it was shot down. Duran was the only one who didn't bail out.

Duran's niece, Patricia Duran, said it wasn't until a Slovenian journalist and then-U.S. Congressman Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Maryland stepped in that it was learned Duran was buried in what is now Slovenia.

New Mexico Considers New High School Diploma AlternativesThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

New Mexico education officials are considering a proposal that would change the path for students to use alternative methods to graduate if they fail to get high enough scores on competency tests.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the proposed rule would mandate that all public schools and charter schools follow detailed alternatives that would be verified by the state Public Education Department.

Under the rule, a student without the necessary scores would have to go through a new two-step process to meet competency requirements. Part of that process includes an internship or getting a minimum grade of 3.0 in an appropriate class.

State Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski says the rule boils down to rigorous standards, more emphasis on methods that have a track record of success and a focus on career and technology education.

Missing Air Force Officer Found 35 Years LaterAssociated Press

A Kirtland Air Force Base high-ranking officer with top security clearance who disappeared 35 years ago has been found in California.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said in a news release this week that it had captured William Howard Hughes, Jr., at his home after a fraud investigation involving a fake identity he had been using.

Hughes was involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

He was last seen withdrawing over $28,000 in Albuquerque in the summer of 1983 after returning from a stint in the Netherlands.

Hughes told authorities he was depressed about being in the Air Force and decided to leave. He created a fake identity and lived that way in California ever since. Hughes was charged with desertion.

'Weeping' Virgin Mary Statue Under InvestigationLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The Las Cruces Catholic Diocese, the governing body of all Catholic churches in southern New Mexico, is investigating a statue of the Virgin Mary at a Hobbs church that appears to be shedding tears.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports parishioners say recently tears have streamed down the face of the statue at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. The church has since become a destination for travelers to see what many have called a miracle.

Bishop Oscar Cantú says the diocese will first try to determine if the tears are a supernatural occurrence. This part of the probe includes laboratory tests of the liquid believed to be tears, eyewitness interviews and scrutiny of possible natural causes, including human tampering.

It is unclear how long the investigation will take to complete.

New Mexico Medical Marijuana Board Short Of Members To MeetAssociated Press

New Mexico's medical marijuana advisory board had to cancel a May meeting to consider recommending program changes because it lacked enough members.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board hasn't had a full roster of members for years and that its membership recently dropped to two members, one short of the three needed for a quorum.

The canceled May meeting was one of two the panel holds annually to consider possible changes such as adding new health conditions that allow patients to qualify to use medical marijuana.

The Health Department said it was working with the New Mexico Medical Society to recruit new members and reviewing applications for three vacancies.

The department said it anticipates the board will meet again in early summer.

Senators Move To Press Amtrak To Not Derail Track WorkAssociated Press

U.S. senators want Congress to press Amtrak to not derail funding for work on New Mexico tracks used by the passenger railroad's Southwest Chief service between Chicago and Los Angeles.

New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall said Friday that a Senate committee amended a funding bill to add a provision calling on Amtrak to not impose new conditions on using federal grants without seeking comment from the public and interested parties.

Udall cited Amtrak's threat to withhold and add conditions to its contribution of partial funding for track work on part of the Southwest Chief's route across northern New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in March awarded a $16 million grant to New Mexico's Colfax County for the track work.

Economist Projects New Mexico To Reap Oil, Gas BenefitsCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A legislative economist says projected growth in the production of oil and natural gas in southeast New Mexico will continue to drive up revenues for the state.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports economist Dawn Iglesias presented the revenue outlook to members of the state Legislative Finance Committee at a meeting Monday in Carlsbad.

Iglesias says the U.S. could produce up to 11.9 million barrels of crude oil per day by next year with much of it coming from Texas and New Mexico. She says the state's bottom line could see a boost if the projected $65 per barrel price holds.

Iglesias says the industry contributed $1.7 billion in direct revenue to the state in the last fiscal year. She says the boom also leads to positive effects on other industries.

Violence Among Prison Inmates Surges In New MexicoAssociated Press

Inmate-on-inmate assaults that result in serious injury have increased at corrections facilities in New Mexico.

A report this week from the Legislative Finance Committee said 28 assaults have been reported so far during the current fiscal year that began in July 2017. That exceeds the number of annual assaults dating back to at least 2012.

The Department of Corrections plans to avoid further attacks between inmates by better sharing information among prisons and improving its classification of inmates. The state hopes to reduce inmate-on-inmate assaults to 10 or fewer per year.

Staff analysts at the nonpartisan Finance Committee say prison facilities may be partially to blame. Lawmakers set aside $200,000 this year to begin planning a new prison to provide adequate space for inmates and a safer environment for staff.

Crews Working To Contain Wildfire A Mile From MescaleroAssociated Press

Ground crews backed by fire engines and helicopters are clearing containment lines around a wildfire to keep it away from homes, a school and power lines in the town of Mescalero on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in southern New Mexico.

The fire has burned 2 square miles of pine forest on tribal land a mile from Mescalero with containment lines around 5 percent of the perimeter.

A top-tier incident management team that assumed command Saturday said there was minimal growth of the fire overnight and that a previous, larger size estimate was reduced after more accurate mapping.

No structures have been destroyed but officials said 100 homes were under evacuation orders.

Cause of the fire's start Thursday was under investigation. 

Tribal President Lifts Evacuation OrdersAssociated Press

Authorities say Mescalero Apache Tribal President Arthur "Butch" Blazer has lifted evacuation orders issued because of a wildfire near Mescalero on the tribe's reservation in southern New Mexico.

An announcement posted Saturday on the New Mexico Fire Information interagency website asks returning residents to not enter the area of the fire and to drive slowly while watching for firefighters traveling in the area or assessing structural protection needs for the future.

More Evacuations Ordered At Colorado WildfireAssociated Press, Durango Herald

Authorities have ordered more people to evacuate near a growing wildfire in southwestern Colorado.

The Durango Herald reported the 416 Fire nearly doubled in size by Sunday morning to 16,766 acres and more than 2,100 residences have been evacuated.  

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Colo., issued a dense smoke advisory from Sunday evening through noon Monday for the southwest part of the state, with the heaviest smoke expected on U.S. Highway 550.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for most of Colorado through Monday night, signifying high fire danger.

Universities, Research Firm Win $2.5B Los Alamos Contract - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The U.S. government has awarded a team of two universities and a research firm with offices around the world a $2.5 billion-a-year contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday the winning bidder is Triad National Security LLC, made up of Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University and the University of California.

The University of California has played a role in management since the lab's inception. The once-secret northern New Mexico lab was the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Following serious concerns about management more than a decade ago, the university formed a consortium with Bechtel and other private companies to become Los Alamos National Security LLC.

Problems persisted and federal officials announced in 2015 the contract wouldn't be renewed, prompting the bidding process.